Having a felony may make it more difficult to join the Marines though it does not necessarily mean it is impossible. Marine Applicants May Be Able to Apply For a Moral Waiver With The Following Felonies Or Misdemeanours. If you have a felony conviction you may believe you are not to serve due to not meeting the Marines  “sound moral character“ requirement. According to the United States of America’s  Marine Corps, they recruit over 30,000 new officers a year. Serving in the United States Marines is a great honour and privilege. Depending on your type of felony you may be eligible to receive a (moral) waiver which will allow you to become an officer in the Marines. Learn more about life as a Marine.

Legal status and type of felony 

The Marines have their own definition of what consists of a felony and which felonies you can receive a waiver for or not. Depending on both  the type of felony you have convicted of (how serious the crimes are)  and your legal status (any impending charges or recent arrest) will determine whether you will are qualified. However, applicants who have certain felony and  misdemeanour convictions may be eligible to ask for an exemption from being disqualified by applying for a moral waiver.


Marine applicants may be able to apply for a moral waiver with the following felonies or misdemeanours:

  • Simple Assault (without a weapon);
  • Under three DUI convictions;
  • Theft;
  • Minor traffic offences;
  • Juvenile offences;
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia;
  • Possession of a controlled substance (including  marijuana and steroids);
  • If you were arrested for a felony or misdemeanour offence and found not guilty;
  • If you were arrested for a felony or misdemeanour offence and the charges were dismissed;
  • You received a bad-conduct discharge while serving in any branch in the Military.


Applicants will be deemed ineligible and will not be able to apply for a moral waiver if they have the following convictions

  • Arson;
  • Embezzlement;
  • Extortion;
  • Grand theft;
  • Terrorism;
  • Breaking and entering;
  • Kidnapping (including if it was your own child);
  • Assault with a weapon;
  • Any sexual crimes (i.e. rape or sexual assault);
  • Domestic violence;
  • Any criminal offence against a minor (including child abuse or neglect);
  • Fraud;
  • Three or more DUI’s (in the past five years);
  • Selling, distributing or trafficking a controlled substance (including marijuana);
  • Five or more misdemeanours;
  • Any offences involving a firearm;
  • Serious civil conviction(s).


You Also Can Not Apply for a Waiver If You:

  • You are currently serving your sentence (incarcerated on parole or probation);
  • Have outstanding fines;
  • Currently pending criminal or civil charges;
  • You test positive during the Marines drug screening process;
  • Are caught lying or withholding information on your application;
  • Have not paid or behind on paying child support;
  • Unable to possess a firearm;
  • If you have been dishonourably discharged from the marines or any other military branch;
  • If you previously received an Entry- Level Separation in your first 180 days of service;


When to disclose your felony conviction

At the beginning of the application process, all candidates undergo a criminal record check. During this process any traffic offences, civil as well as criminal offences (including both misdemeanor and felonies)  will be discovered.

Before a criminal record or background check is conducted it is best for any applicant who has a criminal record and/ or negative police contact to disclose this information to your recruiter as soon as possible regardless if their record has been expunged, purged or sealed. This will only give you the opportunity to explain the circumstances around your conviction(s) and discuss your options with your recruiter(s).


Failure to Disclose Your Criminal History 

Even if you do not disclose your criminal record when asked it will most likely be discovered later on during the Marines security clearance criminal record check. It is not only in your best interest to report any criminal convictions to your recruiter.  It is also against the law to not disclose your criminal history.

It is highly unlikely that you will be able to successfully complete the Marines application process without your criminal history being investigated. However, if you do and your criminal history is later discovered you will be immediately dishonourably discharged. As fraudulent enlistment violates article 83 of the Military Code of Federal Regulations.

If you are found lying or withholding information during  your application process or after you have joined the marines you can be charged in a civil, federal or military court of law. As under Section 571.3(c)(2)(i)  of the Military Code of Federal Regulations applicants must disclose their criminal record.


What happens if you provide false or misleading information on your application to the Marine Corps?
If you are caught withholding or lying in your application you may face the following penalties:

  • Incarceration;
  • Fines;
  • Convicted with a criminal or civil offence;
  • Dishonourably discharged without allowance;
  • Ban from re-enlisting or re-applying to join any Military branch .


How do you get a waiver?

Once your criminal record has been discovered your recruiter may begin to discuss the possibility of receiving a waiver. A recruiter will be able to tell you if you are eligible to apply for a waiver or not.

It is important to note that it is up to the discretion of the recruiter to determine your eligibility and that they might not be able to tell if you are eligible for a waiver until more background information on you is collected. Your recruiter may not allow you to apply for a waiver application if they believe your chances of being approved are low. However, if a recruiter is not meeting their recruitment goal they still allow you to apply for a waiver.

If your recruiter allows you to apply for a waiver they will then give you the required paperwork, documentation required and the next steps.


Success Story

3 years ago, John was approved for a Moral Waiver after years of holding off applying to the Marine Corps. Like many others, John wanted to put his best foot forward in his application. When he was eighteen, years before joining the Marines, John was convicted of a DUI. This made John ineligible to serve in the Marines Corp as they view a DUI as a felony offence. Over the years, since his DUI, John has been working with underprivileged youth and also gets his children to serve in the community. John was able to prove that he is a law-abiding citizen who is an asset to the Marines in his Moral Waiver application and was approved. Currently John is still serving as an officer in the Marines Corp and is more financially secure than ever before. He is also taking the next steps to be promoted and serve as a Commander in Marines.


Documentation and Letters of Reference

In order to give yourself the best chance of having your moral waiver application approved it is essential to have lots of documentation regarding your criminal record and proof you have been rehabilitated. This can include a copy of court, parole of probation documents as well as certificates of any classes you have completed. This will show the Marines that you have gone from a rebellious non-law- abiding citizen to a law-abiding citizen who is worthy of serving in the Marines.

Another great way to increase your chances of having your moral waiver approved is by having letters from references. References should be from someone who knows you and can speak on your character. Though please note that family members typically should not be one of your references. Excellent references include  your employer, professors, lawyers, probation officer or judge.


Waiver Review Process and Timeframe

Once you have collected all your documentation and your application is complete it will be submitted. Then it will be reviewed by either a commander (for non-serious offences) or the head of recruitment (for serious convictions). There is no exact timeline on how long it takes your application to be reviewed as the review process is done on a case by case basis. The review process also depends on how serious your convictions are and how many other waiver applications are submitted. It will take minor offences such as minor traffic offences less time to be approved than an assault conviction will. As the minor traffic offence will be reviewed by a commander and an assault conviction will be reviewed by the head recruiter or even someone higher in command.


Can you appeal your application if your moral waiver is denied?

Unfortunately, if your Moral Waiver has not been approved there is no appeal process. As the Marines are not obligated to accept waiver applications. They only do so if they believe there is potential you are a worthy candidate. This means that if your moral waiver application is denied there is sadly not much you can do afterwards in regards to disputing the decision.

Though there is one option that applicants who have been denied a moral waiver in any branch of the military have. That is to check different military branches to see if the decision made on your waiver is only applicable for the branch that made the decision or for all of them. If it is not you may be able to apply again in a different branch in the military.

A Canadian Waiver may help your moral waiver application

Having a travel waiver such as a Canadian waiver may be used as additional documentation to use in your moral waiver application. A Canadian waiver shows the Marine recruiters that you have proven you rehabilitated and are considered worthy to visit another country. This means that if you have previously been approved for a Canadian Temporary Residential Permit (TRP) or Canadian Rehabilitation that it would be a good idea to add this waiver as supporting documentation to your application. As the ability to be able to travel is an important factor for marine officers. However, it is important to note that having a Canadian Waiver does not guarantee your moral waiver application will be approved. It can increase your chances of success.


External Factors Can Improve Your Chances Your Moral Waiver Will Be Approved:

There are many other factors that are considered when determining if an applicant’s waiver will be approved or denied. Many of these factors can increase the chances that an applicant waiver application will be approved as the marines need to be able to recruit around 30,000 new recruits to function at full capacity.


Factors That Improve the Chances of your Waiver Application Being Approved:

  • If there are not many new applicants (below the 30,000 yearly target);
  •  If there is a war: the Marines will lower their standards during war in order to recruit more applicants;
  •  If your criminal record has been purged, expunged or sealed;
  • If your charges were dismissed;
  • Letters of references from judges, lawyers, probation officers and employers;
  • Documentation of rehabilitation.


Why you should not give up and apply for a moral waiver in order to join the Marines 

Though having one felony conviction does not mean that you can become an officer in the Marines, it is up to you, the applicant, to show the recruiters that you are a contributing member of society and will be an asset to the Marines. According to several men and women who serve in the Marines it is a very rewarding career. It is also a position of great honour. Many officers who have received a waiver have been able to put the past behind them and have had successful careers.

If you are eligible it is worth applying as the Marines are currently approving more waivers than in previous years. This is due to the decrease in youth who are interested in joining the marines. According to the Marine Times, in 2017 the Marines accepted 5,133 medical and moral waivers which is 27% more than in 2015. This means that if you are eligible to apply for a moral waiver your chances of receiving the waiver are better now than they have ever been before.


If you’re thinking about joining the Marine Corps. and have a criminal record, you can still apply.

Call us today at 1 (866) 972-7366.